Bernd Leno says Mikel Arteta plans to play him in the Europa League as well as the Premier League, breaking with the tradition of the last few years.
When Mikel Arteta named Bernd Leno in his starting lineup against Olympiacos on Thursday, it was such a surprise that it initially didn’t register with me. I ignored the goalkeeper part of the lineup, assuming it would be the same as always.
We’ve had the same situation for a few years now. One goalkeeper plays in the Premier League, one plays in the other competitions.
Under Arsene Wenger, we had David Ospina starting against Bayern Munich and Atletico Madrid. After that, Unai Emery stuck with Petr Cech even against Chelsea in the Europa League final.
This season, Emi Martinez started all the Europa League group games, then both FA Cup ties last month. Yet against Olympiacos, he dropped to the bench for Leno. The German explained afterwards that he’s first-choice in Europe now too.
“I want to play all the games, because we take this tournament seriously. It is another trophy and a chance to qualify for the Champions League,” Leno said.
“I want to play all these games and I am happy that the manager made the decision that I play the Premier League and the Europa League games as well.”
Presumably, Martinez will still start in the FA Cup. Perhaps if he plays well enough, he’ll get minutes in the league or in Europe too. For now, with the form Leno is in, it only makes sense to pick him in such crucial knockout ties.